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How critical-4WD/AWD for Launching?

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How critical-4WD/AWD for Launching?

Old 02-04-2021, 09:01 PM
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Default How critical-4WD/AWD for Launching?

I am shopping for my first boat tow/launch vehicle...older models of Ford Excursion or Expedition or Lincoln Navigators.
When it comes to launching a 23' boat, can I count on the weight of a RWD full size SUV to hold with enough grip?
or
Should I only be looking at 4WD and AWD vehicles?

Thanks in-advance!
Old 02-04-2021, 09:06 PM
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This is an oft-debated subject here. Depends on your ramp. Some people never had it and haven't had a problem in 20 years. If your ramp is fairly level and/or not much or any tide change, then probably don't need it. Some wouldn't launch without it. If you have a steep ramp, it probably gets slick at low tide. You would need it. I launch in salt water. The ramp is steep and it gets slick at low tide. I wouldn't launch without 4WD or AWD.
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Old 02-05-2021, 01:55 AM
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4WD..... if you've got it you can use it when needed. If you don't???
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Old 02-05-2021, 04:38 AM
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Posi rear is all you need on most ramps.
Old 02-05-2021, 04:47 AM
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It's not needed...until it is.

Suggest you google boat ramp follies on youtube. You will see all you need to see.

I know many disagree and it is indeed likely that you will never need it, but personally, I would not even consider purchasing a rear wheel drive vehicle for launching a boat.
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Old 02-05-2021, 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bamaskeetshooter View Post
Posi rear is all you need on most ramps.
"Most" is the keyword here! It is better to have 4X4 and not need it, than to need 4X4 and not have it. Get it, you won't regret it.
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Old 02-05-2021, 05:09 AM
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My 2wd 1997 Expedition easily pulled my 25
Whaler up any paved ramp. But the 2012 4wd Suburban that replaced the Expedition has an easier time on steep ramps and also lets me use unpaved ramps.

In general, either of these has pretty good rear wheel traction on a ramp - much better than a pickup.

Ramps I use at the coast are quite good and Iíve never had any trouble with the Expedition at them. I use some less good lake ramps and had to be more careful with the Expedition there at times.
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Old 02-05-2021, 05:36 AM
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I've had no issues launching a boat with a 2wd truck.

Retrieving a boat is another story! The tide swing is usually 8-9 feet here, so pulling your boat out even a couple hours from high tide can be tricky with 2wd.
This can vary greatly depending on location.
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Old 02-05-2021, 05:58 AM
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Being in the mid Atlantic I have never had a truck without 4wd. That being said I can only think of a couple times where I used it. Even with those it was convenient but don't think it was 100% necessary. A friend in LA has a 2wd diesel and has never had any issues pulling out. Throttle control is a major factor and if you take it easy in most instances, if it really becomes a problem you would need to air down for better traction.
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Old 02-05-2021, 06:32 AM
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I had a Sierra 2500 2WD (with limited slip dif) that had LOTS of traction problems pulling my World Cat 266SF (9000-10000 lbs) out on several ramps I used unless there were 3 fat guys in the back to provide some weight/traction over the rear axle. My Yukon XL 2WD did not have that problem with the World Cat I assume because of the additional weight of the SUV in back (and possibly softer/grippier tires). There are few worse feelings in life than not being able to pull your boat out at the ramp.

It really depends on the condition of the ramps and the weight of the boat whether you will need 4WD. But when you need it and don't have it, it sucks.
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Old 02-05-2021, 06:36 AM
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It’s not critical. Until it is. Lots of ramps are easy to use, and won’t require 4WD. Then, there are a few ramps, or times, where 4WD is welcome. My current truck is 4WD, but my previous was RWD. At my local ramp, I generally had no issue with RWD, unless I attempted to retrieve at an extreme low tide. I tend to also take trips a couple times a year, and those ramps tend not to be as nice as my local ramp. I have used a ramp in the Keys where the RWD wouldn’t cut it. At the time, my truck was RWD. Managed to use it by having someone on the boat to give it a little push to get the truck moving. There are some tricks if you have only RWD, but flipping into 4WD is much easier.

Personally, as long as I’m towing a boat, I will make sure my TV is 4WD.
Old 02-05-2021, 07:05 AM
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The last 20 years I've had 3 pickups all 4wd and launch a lot never had to use 4wd. From here to Florida probably used 25 different boat ramps. But I would not consider not having 4wd.
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Old 02-05-2021, 07:20 AM
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4X4 as your boat size will mostly grow over the next few years too. But 4X4 either way. I understand if folks don't have a 4x4 and don't or can't afford one. But if your shopping for a vehicle why not get it? An old timer once gave me some unsolicited advice when I was buying my first new vehicle at age 20. ....."Get power to every wheel you can on everything you own". And I have never forgotten it and it has served me well.
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Old 02-05-2021, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Terry Sunstone View Post
The last 20 years I've had 3 pickups all 4wd and launch a lot never had to use 4wd. From here to Florida probably used 25 different boat ramps. But I would not consider not having 4wd.
This is essentially my experience as well. Iíve always had it, I donít think Iíve ever really needed it. Iíve also helped a few people pull their boats out in their 2wd trucks over the years. Once the tires start slipping if you work the brake simultaneously and slow it down 99% of the time theyíll start to grab. Thereís only one ramp that comes to mind that you probably do need 4x4 with a bigger boat, and the sea breeze blows large amounts of seaweed onto the ramp every day so itís extra slippery close to the water. All that being said itís a nice crutch to have in the event you do need it, and generally whatever vehicle you choose will hold itís value better having it.
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Old 02-05-2021, 07:27 AM
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I towed my 8000lb load probably close to 1000x over the course of a little over 10 years with a 2wd tundra. Never had a problem. Dont dunk your trailer too far in the water and keep your rear wheels on the hard. The truck was not worth a ton on resale so even if it had 4wd, I was not getting 3 grand more for it.

I have 4wd on my current Cummins but know it is just another break/failure/maintenance point.

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Old 02-05-2021, 01:49 PM
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I have not ever failed to get up a ramp. I have used marginal tow vehicles and there are tricks to help get a rig up the ramp.

The compelling reason for 4 x 4 is your state of mind. Every time you launch your boat with a marginal tow vehicle there is a nagging question in the back of your mind: what am I going to encounter when retrieving the boat at the end of the day?

Most of us make a substantial investment in time and money to enjoy a boat. It is not worth the brain damage to save several thousand dollars of additional cost to buy a 4 x 4.
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Old 02-05-2021, 02:02 PM
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I wonder if tires make a difference? I have a Tundra 4x4, but have always had aftermarket off road tires, have never had to use the 4 wheel drive. I have a 26' Calcutta which is probably close to 8K fully loaded with the trailer. But honestly, I'll never buy a 2 wheel drive truck.
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Old 02-05-2021, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by scrapper01 View Post
I wonder if tires make a difference? I have a Tundra 4x4, but have always had aftermarket off road tires, have never had to use the 4 wheel drive. I have a 26' Calcutta which is probably close to 8K fully loaded with the trailer. But honestly, I'll never buy a 2 wheel drive truck.
Without a doubt, tires make a difference. At the ramp and elsewhere. My current truck came with street tread General Grabbers. The name was not appropriate. Early on, I noticed traction control had to step in. They were shot at 25K. I replaced them with Cooper Discoverers with a much more aggressive tread. I have 30K on them, and havenít noticed the traction control kick in.
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Old 02-05-2021, 06:19 PM
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I've towed 3 different boats with 5 different 4wd tow vehicle over the last 18 years. I've launched at various ramps in VA, WV, MD, PA, NY, and TN. I can't remember a single time I ever put a vehicle into 4wd at a ramp; I just have never needed it. However, I use 4wd at least once a week in my work, on my property, hauling firewood, driving in the snow, recreating in the mountains, etc. I wouldn't own a truck without it for all those reasons. And around here it's pretty hard to give away a 2wd truck, let alone sell a used one. But just for launching a boat, I don't see the need.
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Old 02-05-2021, 10:57 PM
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I have used 4WD a couple of times where it was needed. One was a crappy ramp with a heavy boat and the other was with a 19' boat where the axle almost went off the ramp when unloading. It was a real low tide and felt the trailer start to slip off the edge; I immediately stopped the truck and put it in drive and slowly released the brakes while accelerating. The truck started to spin and move sideways. I applied brakes and placed it in 4X4 and eased her out. 4WD kept me from having a really bad day.

4WD for me is a necessity for more reasons than the boat ramp.

Hope this helps
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